Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 USM L - Full Format Review / Test
Lens Reviews - Canon EOS (Full Format)

Review by Klaus Schroiff, published April 2011


For whatever reason the manufacturers are only offering few "affordable" tele prime lenses today. The Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 USM L is the last of its species (slow speed 400mm) that it marketed today - there used to be a Pentax FA* 400mm f/5.6 and a Minolta AF 400mm f/4.5 APO but these are history already. Seems as if the zoom lenses in this range killed the prime market. The Canon lens survived without changes since 1993. It earned a mixed reputation in the 90s because of a rather mediocre test report in an US magazine. However, it showed no major issues in our old APS-C format test so let's have a look how it performs within its native full format scope.

Typical for Canon L class lenses the mechanical quality is excellent thanks to an body of metal and a smoothly operating, rubberized focus ring. The lens features a detachable tripod mount for a better balance on tripods - certainly a good idea regarding the weight of the lens. There's also a pretty convenient build-in lens hood which can be locked in its out-most position.

Thanks to its ring-type USM drive the AF speed is very fast and virtually silent. The AF of our tested sample was spot on. The focus range can be limited to 8.5m-∞ and 3.5m-∞ - this indicates also a weakness of the design which allows a max. object magnification of only 1:9.
Live-View (contrast) AF is, of course, very slow in comparison. The lens accepts all Canon EF tele-converters resulting in either a 560mm f/8 (400mm + 1.4x) or 800mm f/11 (400mm + EF 2x) combination. Due to the small max. apertures of these tele converter combinations you will not provide AF with consumer-grade DSLRs anymore though. Combined with the EF 2x converters there's no AF anymore even when using pro grade DSLRs.

Optical construction7 elements in 6 groups inc. 1x SUD and 1x UD element
Number of aperture blades8 (non-circular)
min. focus distance3.5 m (max. magnification ratio ~1:9)
Dimensions90 x 257 mm
Weight1250 g
Filter size77 mm (non-rotating)
Hoodbuild-in lens hood - barrel-shaped
Other featuresCompatible to EF converters. Focus limiter. Tripod mount.

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